Published 13 February 2023

Sustainable municipal waste management in North Macedonia

Managing waste properly is a challenge for many developing countries and cities, also in North Macedonia. The waste management project led by SALAR International builds on existing legislation and driving forces to improve the system and adapt to EU-legislation and regulations.

The Law on Waste Management in Macedonia provides a good basis for successful waste management at national and local level. Nevertheless, 15 years after its adoption, waste management in North Macedonia is still based on collection and disposal.

Waste management in North Macedonia is a result of:

  • high percentage (98 percent) of the generated waste that is landfilled,
  • incompliant landfills and many dumpsites,
  • very small percentage of waste selection and recycled waste,
  • small coverage of waste management services especially in rural and remote areas.

Regional waste management is introduced in the Law as a way of providing efficient, effective and financially self-sustainable waste management. The project supports this process particularly on the regional and local level.

Decentralisation action plan and local democracy

Local authorities can play a crucial role in the new regional system if North Macedonia to continue along the path suggested in the national decentralisation action plan and progress towards national targets.

In line with Sweden’s reform strategy for the Western Balkans, the project fosters more sustainable public services, improved compliance with EU legislation and enhanced environmental responsibility among inhabitants. It will also help to strengthen local democracy by improving administrative capacity and public participation and by addressing gender mainstreaming and human rights aspects connected to waste management.

Project plan and target groups

The project is being implemented from 2022 to 2027. The inception phase of the project ran from February 2022 to January 2023 in order to lay out a foundation for the upcoming work. The inception phase focused on establishing connections to key stakeholders and refined activity plans. The implementation phase started in March 2023 and continues through February 2027.

The project works, firstly, with municipal administrations, local public utility companies and inhabitants in selected municipalities (six municipalities in the combined Pelagonija and South-West waste management region) to improve waste management planning and strengthen municipalities’ ability to deliver inclusive and sustainable waste services. This is intended to attract necessary investments in regional and local facilities. Secondly, the project has a collaboration with the North Macedonian local government association: ZELS. Through the project, the association is expected to support a wider group of municipalities to improve waste planning and performance and to apply gender mainstreaming practices in local service delivery. Thirdly, working with the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, the Ministry of Local Self-Government and other national and regional actors, the project will seek to improve multi-level coordination and promote inter-municipal cooperation. This way, the government will improve its capacity to support local authorities in implementing EU waste standards. The project supports gender mainstreaming in municipal services and promotes a human-rights-based approach to local governance.

Theory of change

The project's theory of change is: “by helping municipalities to improve their waste management planning process, organisational capacity, data collection and communication with citizens, it will demonstrate the true scale of action, capacity and resources needed at local level to move towards compliance with EU standards.”

The project effects will also highlight the economic, social, environmental and quality of life benefits that are expected to come as additional benefits. This is expected to stimulate further improvement of capacities, skills and political will of local leaders and national stakeholders to embrace such an approach. Ultimately it will promote inclusivity in local and regional waste management plans, with the participation of inhabitants and important stakeholders such as minority groups and informal waste collectors. It will also contribute to more effective governance of the regional system by safeguarding municipal interests and needs. The project is also foreseen to build support from the national level for municipal action in this domain to strengthen the case for decentralisation by showing the essential role that municipalities must play in implementing EU legislation.


Helena Ohlsson
Project Manager

Emil Angelov
Team Leader in Skopje